Interdisciplinary Learning

With Strand 2 of this research project, we are interested in identifying how learning is woven into the on-going everyday work of interdisciplinary R&D and establishing the main epistemic features of productive learning activities and environments. For this we seek to address the following guiding questions:

  • What kinds of epistemic tools and epistemic games do teams enact? How do they combine them?
  • What kinds of objects do teams create and how?
  • How do teams co-assemble their epistemic environments for joint work?
  • What kinds of relationships are formed between epistemic tools, games and objects during complex boundary crossing interactions?

Our research will also help us to understand how participants in interdisciplinary R&D and student teams learn during authentic interdisciplinary projects. It shifts the view of epistemic practice from the level of culture down to concrete epistemic activities and socio-material arrangements in specific settings. At this meso level, epistemic practice can be characterised by the dynamics between:

  • joint actions, including discourse,
  • objects, and
  • the overall configuration of the environment evolving over time [1, 2].

Learning through authentic projects can be understood in terms of learning to use epistemic tools and to ‘play’ or jointly enact epistemic games [3, 4]. Characteristic objects play central roles in such shared knowledge-constructing action [2, 5]. They give visibility to human thinking and provide concrete material grounding for shared knowledge work. In order to create knowledge objects, one needs an instrumental arrangement: an epistemic environment. In scientific work such arrangements are seen as purposefully co-created cognitive–cultural–material assemblages that integrate (in one time and place) concepts, tools, methods, procedures, materials and other elements brought together from various (disciplinary) infrastructures [1, 6, 7].

Epistemic tools, games, objects and environments offer a concrete focus for deciding what people who enter a new field of practice need to master and how to design environments for authentic learning. However, in the context of interdisciplinary work, these practices are more dynamic and the tools and games are multiple and/or hybrid. How people learn to do hybrid epistemic work is a question that requires thorough empirical investigation. We will trace and examine characteristic features of epistemic practices enacted by the teams during their interdisciplinary teamwork.

Read more about Strand 1, Strand 3 and Strand 4.

  1. Goodwin, C, Co-operative action. 2018, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Nicolini, D, J Mengis, & J Swan, Understanding the role of objects in cross-disciplinary collaboration. Org Science, 2012. 23(3): 612-629.
  3. Markauskaite, L & P Goodyear, Epistemic fluency and professional education: Innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. 2017, Dordrecht: Springer.
  4. Collins, A & W Ferguson, Epistemic forms and epistemic games: Structures and strategies to guide inquiry. Educational Psychologist, 1993. 28: 25-42.
  5. Akkerman, SF & A Bakker, Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research, 2011. 81(2): 132-169.
  6. Turnbull, D, Masons, tricksters and cartographers: Comparative studies in the sociology of scientific and indigenous knowledge. 2000, Abingdon: Routledge.
  7. Nersessian, NJ, The cognitive-cultural systems of the research laboratory. Org Studies, 2006. 27(1): 125-145.
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